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Archive for the ‘Hall of Fame’ Category

(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeU.)

The Hall of Fame voting results will be announced tomorrow and there is a growing consensus that Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven will be elected. Alomar’s selection seems mostly likely because his exclusion last year probably resulted from the misguided (and unfortunately persistent) sentiment that seeks to uphold the sanctity of a first ballot coronation (after all, if every voter held the same philosophy, extremely qualified candidates would drop off the ballot after failing to reach the minimum threshold of 5%). Blyleven’s potential induction, however, would be the culmination of a long campaign that has attracted many tireless advocates, particularly in what has become known as the sabremetric community. Long overlooked because of his less than stellar showing in more primitive measures of pitching ability, Blyleven’s candidacy has slowly gained traction as a wider acceptance and understanding of advanced statistical concepts have emerged.

Regardless of where you come down on the old school/new school statistical debate, Blyleven’s selection would be historic in terms of how long he had to wait to get elected. This year marks Blyleven’s 14th time on the ballot, so if he once again falls short, he’d only have one year left of consideration. However, if he does finally get the needed 75% of the total vote, he would become only the second player to be enshrined by the baseball writers after waiting at least 14 years. In 2009, Jim Rice finally crossed the finished line in his 15th and final year of eligibility. Before Rice’s election, Bruce Sutter joined Ralph Kiner as the “longest suffering” Hall of Famer when he was elected in 2006 on his 13th attempt.

Hall of Famers with Most Years on BBWAA Ballot

Player Year Elected Years on Ballot
Ralph Kiner 1975 13
Bob Lemon 1976 12
Duke Snider 1980 11
Don Drysdale 1984 10
Tony Perez 2000 9
Bruce Sutter 2006 13
Rich Gossage 2008 9
Jim Rice 2009 15
Andre Dawson 2010 9
Bert Blyleven ? 14
Jack Morris ? 12

Note: Only players elected since 1967, when BBWAA first adopted annual votes, are included.
Source: Baseball-reference.com and baseballhall.org/hall-famers

Of the 109 players elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA (104 in regular elections, three in runoffs and two in special elections), only nine have needed at least nine years (60% of the allowed tenure) on the ballot. However, four of those cases have come in the last five years (and, if Blyleven is elected, it would be five in the last six years). Is this a sign of Hall of Fame voters becoming more liberal? Perhaps it is the growing ranks of the BBWAA that has given long-time candidates a second life? Or, could it be something much more subtle like a backlash by older voters against the modern statistics espoused by younger counterparts? In the case of Rice, that seems like a plausible theory, but the steady progress of Blyleven puts that conspiracy to rest.

Interestingly, another four cases were also clustered in one 10-year period from 1975 to 1984. In that era, however, it seems as if the combination of a candidate backlog, adaptation to annual elections in 1967 and the recent retirements of several superstars conspired to prolong the candidacies of more than a few overqualified players. It’s shocking to see that Ralph Kiner and Duke Snider had to wait 13 and 11 years, respectively, for enshrinement, but it becomes a little more understandable when you look at preceding years’ results. In the case of Kiner, his election in 1975 was preceded by the selection of Mickey Mantle in 1974, Warren Spahn in 1973 and Sandy Koufax and Yogi Berra in 1972. Snider, meanwhile, had to wait through all of those elections as well as Willie Mays in 1979, Eddie Mathews in 1978 and Ernie Banks in 1977.

Looking at the recent group of long-time candidates, an opposite phenomenon might be true. Instead of having to wade through too many qualified options, it seems as if the voters may be too eager to find suitable candidates, either because of a lull in the process or the exclusion of those players suspected of using PEDs (e.g., Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Jeff Bagwell). That might help explain why players like Rice and Andre Dawson gradually enjoyed increased support. After all, Rice’s and Dawson’s candidacies occurred during the “steroid era”, so if you discount the numbers being produced during that time, the relative performance of players from the previous generation would appear more impressive. Also, in the cases of Sutter and Rich Gossage, the evolving role of the relief pitcher and increasing acceptance of its importance may have helped get each candidate over the hump.

Vote Progression of “Long-Term” Candidates


Note: Year refers to either the most recent recorded vote total or date of election.
Source: Sean Lahman database, Baseball-reference.com and baseballhall.org/hall

Unfortunately, at the same time that BBWAA seems poised to right a wrong by electing Bert Blyleven, they are also inching toward electing Jack Morris, who would rival Rice as one of the writers’ poorest choices. The interesting thing about Morris’ candidacy is it has lacked the one big bump that most long-term nominees experience. With the exception of Tony Perez, who debuted at a relatively high 50%, every Hall of Fame who spent at least nine years on the ballot enjoyed at least one year with a 10% spike in support. To date, Morris’ largest increase has been the 8.3% increase experienced last year. If Morris is to be elected, he will need to have his breakthrough soon because none of the other similar candidates have had a vote total as low as his in their 11th year of consideration.

Finally, looking at things from the flip side, if Blyleven fails to win election and drops off the writers’ ballot after 2012, he would hold the distinction of having the second highest vote total without being elected (74.2% in 2010) by the writers. In 1985, Nellie Fox dropped off the BBWAA’s ballot after receiving 74.7% in his final year of eligibility. Fox eventually was elected by the Veteran’s Committee in 1997, so even if Blyleven continues to get the snub from the writers, the doors of the Hall might still be opened to him some day.

Players with Highest Vote Total Not Elected by BBWAA

Player Highest Total Year Result
Nellie Fox 74.7% 1985 Elected by VC in 1997.
Bert Blyleven 74.2% 2010 Still eligible.
Jim Bunning 74.2% 1988 Elected by VC in 1996.
Orlando Cepeda 73.5% 1994 Elected by VC in 1999.
Frank Chance 72.5% 1945 Elected by OTC in 1946.

Note: Bunning’s highest total was recorded in 12th year of eligibility.
Source: Sean Lahman database, Baseball-reference.com and baseballhall.org/hall-famers

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After being fooled by 2B Chuck Knoblauch, Lonnie Smith slides safely into 3B. Had Smith read the play properly, he would have scored the go-ahead run in the 8th inning of game 7 of the 1991 World Series (Photo: SI).

In a recent article, Tyler Kepner gradually builds a convincing argument against Jack Morris’ Hall of Fame candidacy, but then reverses course because of the outcome of one World Series game.

It’s hard to criticize Kepner’s position because he acknowledges most of the key points made against Morris. In other words, he seems to understand why such a “large segment of fans and bloggers” vehemently oppose his candidacy.  However, despite conceding most of the negative conclusions regarding Morris’ Hall of Fame worthiness (as well as the contention that Bert Blyleven was a better pitcher), Kepner still manages to conclude with the same head-banging argument advanced by less astute members of the BBWAA.

It is often written that without his 10-inning shutout for the Twins in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Morris would not get nearly as much support. But he did pitch that game. That’s the whole point. Moments of greatness matter a lot, even though, as tiny slices of time, they rarely say much about the breadth of a player’s career.” – Tyler Kepner, The New York Times, January 3, 2011

To his credit, Kepner does not fall into the trap of allowing one World Series game to define Morris as “clutch”, which is what makes his argument so inexplicable. He doesn’t buy into the Morris myth, but still deems him worthy of the Hall of Fame because of “one moment”. He even concedes that Morris’ historic moment was aided in large part by Lonnie Smith’s baserunning blunder in the eighth inning of the 1991 World Series’ final game, but yet somehow glosses over the implication (i.e., had Smith been a batter baserunner, Morris wouldn’t be a Hall of Famer).

Kepner seems to believe that Morris’ historic moment in the 1991 World Series magically converts his career from very good to Hall of Fame caliber. If that’s the case, there really is no way to refute such a position, especially when the person advancing it not only acknowledges, but concedes the points against it. One game or accomplishment doesn’t make a Hall of Famer, however. That’s why the museum has a Great Moments Room.

It’s a feel thing with Morris, and that’s not always wrong. Emotions mean a lot. We watch the game because we care about it and we want to see who wins the World Series. And if you cared about baseball in Morris’s era, you probably wanted him on the mound when it mattered. – Tyler Kepner, The New York Times, January 3, 2011

In his conclusion, Kepner returns to one of the myths that he actually does a good job dispelling. But, Jack Morris was not “one of the pitchers you wanted on the mound when it mattered most” anymore than Jim Rice was “one of the most feared hitters in the game”. There is no way to support such a position, either with statistics or even references to contemporary accounts. Rather, Morris was involved in a significant moment that too many eligible voters have allowed to cloud their better judgment.

Although the Hall of Fame voting process is  in need of an overhaul, the BBWAA hasn’t exactly done a terrible job. After all, thanks in large part to the high threshold needed for election, the body has avoided making the mistake of enshrining Morris. So, it’s not really the end of the world that a large segment of the voting population has a blind spot when it comes to certain candidates. What is very disappointing, however, is that Kepner, one of the brighter BBWAA members (who, incidentally, as an employee of the New York Times is prohibited from voting for the Hall of Fame), would be a victim.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeU.)

The holidays are also major league baseball’s Hall of Fame season. Once the ballot is released after Thanksgiving, hundreds of BBWAA members endeavor to narrow down the choices, and in the process, usually write about their selections ahead of the official announcement on January 5. As a result, an undercurrent usually emerges from the collective prose to offer a hint as to the eventual outcome.

Will the Hall of Fame turn its back on Bagwell because of rumor and innuendo?

Unfortunately for the likes of Bert Blyleven, Tim Raines, Roberto Alomar and Alan Trammell, there really hasn’t been a resounding sentiment that would foreshadow their deserved elections. Instead, the major theme of the process has been steroids. With the addition of Rafael Palmeiro to the ballot, the focus on PEDs is certainly understandable. After all, despite collecting 3,000 hits among many other accomplishments, the former All Star first baseman is now best known for his finger pointing denial in front of Congress just months before testing positive for a banned substance in 2005. Interestingly, Palmeiro, who joins Mark McGwire on the ballot as a qualified candidate stained by PEDs, still maintains his innocence, but the overwhelming sentiment is that he has virtually no chance of being elected.

I was telling the truth then, and I am telling the truth now. I don’t know what else I can say. I have never taken steroids. For people who think I took steroids intentionally, I’m never going to convince them. But I hope the voters judge my career fairly and don’t look at one mistake.” – Rafael Palmeiro, quoted by AP, December 30, 2010

Although no one can come close to knowing the true impact that steroids and other “performance enhancing” drugs actually have on the playing field, it is perfectly legitimate to hold an admission or failed drug test against a particular candidate. According to the Hall of Fame’s BBWAA elections rules, “voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” Clearly, taking performance enhancing drugs calls into question the qualifications of integrity, sportsmanship and character. Of course, the impact of those qualities still has to be weighed against the overall contribution, not to mention measured against the prevailing attitude of the era. Nonetheless, when there is evidence of  PED use, it becomes reasonable to disregard an otherwise perfectly deserving candidate.

Unfortunately, far too many members of the BBWAA have gone beyond the careful consideration of evidence and allowed rumors, unverified allegations and, even worse, mere hunches to factor into their decision. The chief victim of this perverted process has been Jeff Bagwell. Although some might argue that Bagwell wasn’t as dominant as other more prominent first baseman of his era, it’s nearly impossible to build a case against him on a statistical basis. Based on his numbers and reputation within the game, Bagwell should be a slam dunk, no doubt about it, first ballot Hall of Famer. So, what’s the problem?

Apparently, a large segment of the voting population has gotten it into their heads that Jeff Bagwell did steroids. In what Craig Calcattera perfectly labeled “Steroid McCarthyism”, several eligible voters have openly accused Bagwell of being tainted without offering one shred of evidence to support their vitriolic allegations. Instead, these writers have cowardly hid behind hunches, suspicions and undisclosed circumstantial evidence to not only smear an individual, but make the entire process seem so illegitimate.

Jeff Bagwell’s Career Progression, HRs and OPS+

Source: Baseball-reference.com

The baseless accusations against Bagwell are somewhat curious because his career followed the normal path that one would expect from a superstar player. At the age of 23, he broke into the majors as a productive player, had several strong peak years in his mid-to-late 20s and then slowly declined into his 30s until finishing his last full season at age 36. Unlike other players of the era, Bagwell did not resurrect a stalled career, nor find the fountain of youth in the years after his prime. He has repeatedly denied using PEDs, but that hasn’t stemmed the tide of cowardly innuendo. In fact, the repeated allegations have done so much damage that the truth probably doesn’t even matter anymore.

So much has gone on in the last eight or nine years, it’s kind of taken some of the valor off it for me. If I ever do get to the Hall of Fame and there are 40 guys sitting behind me thinking, ‘He took steroids,’ then it’s not even worth it to me. I don’t know if that sounds stupid. But it’s how I feel in a nutshell.” – Jeff Bagwell, quoted by ESPN.com, December 29, 2010

Another argument many have used against Bagwell is “guilt by association”. Although no evidence exists about his personal use, the theory goes, he still warrants a scarlet letter because of the era in which he played. Clearly, that’s a nonsensical approach to the issue that can’t possibly be applied with any consistency. In fact, one who holds that sentiment should recues himself from the voting process.

Over the past 10-20 years, it has become obvious that the voting process for the Hall of Fame needs a major overhaul. Just as it has demonstrated with its annual post season awards, the BBWAA is no longer uniquely qualified to serve as the sole arbiter of baseball’s greatest honor. Before the advent of the internet and proliferation of television, sportswriters, by virtue of their access, were among a select group of people with particular insight into the game. Nowadays, however, that is no longer the case. On the contrary, the aging BBWAA population has proven to be significantly out of touch with the game’s development, and therefore woefully inadequate in its role as a third-party overseer. This disintegration is perfectly illustrated by the dozens of trade group members who have deemed themselves qualified to serve as doctors and lawyers when considering Hall of Fame candidates.

The current electorate’s inability to see the distinction between Jack Morris and Bert Blyleven is disturbing enough, but its mob mentality in handling players like Bagwell is really the last straw. Using pens as pitchforks, some BBWAA members have torched reputations and tarnished accomplishments, all in the name of preserving the game’s integrity. In reality, however, the opposite has been true. Therefore, the time has come for major league baseball and the Hall of Fame to take a serious look at the electoral process as well as the qualifications of those casting votes.

There are many intelligent, thoughtful sportswriters who should remain a part of the process, but as recent events have proven, there are also many who should not. Simply being a tenured member of a trade group should not merit such a distinct honor. Last decade, baseball endeavored to clean up the game by enacting a strict drug testing regimen. This decade, it should aim to revamp the Hall of Fame election process by ensuring that a more deserving and better qualified group of voters is entrusted with preserving its history. It’s time to put an end to the age of suspicion, and those who wish to wallow in rumor and innuendo should be left behind.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeU.)

Pat Gillick was an accomplished baseball executive for well over 40 years, including 27 seasons as a general manager for four different franchises. Although he isn’t a blight on the Hall of Fame, his election this afternoon by the new Expansion Era committee process is an absurdity when juxtaposed against the exclusion of two much more worthy candidates.

Marvin Miller, flanked by Joe Torre, announces the end of the first player’s strike (Photo: AP).

The mission of the Hall of Fame is (or at least should be) to honor excellence and preserve history, but unfortunately, the new era-based committee process seems just as prone to the cronyism that corrupted past iterations. One could not write the story of baseball’s expansion era, which the Hall of Fame defines as 1973 to the present, without devoting massive chapters to the contributions of MLBPA executive director Marvin Miller (1966 to 1982) and Yankees’ principal owner George M. Steinbrenner III (1973-2010). By excluding each member, the Hall of Fame is presenting an incomplete history…one influenced more by personal relationships than impact on the game.

The argument against Miller seems to be from those who think free agency ruined the game. “Because of the fiery union leader, the wholesome sport of baseball was undermined by greedy players no longer interested in simply playing for the love of the game”, Miller’s detractors have usually argued in one way or another. Sadly, such sentiment is pervasive, even though Miller’s labor revolution ushered in an era of growth and competitive balance. If he was an NFL commissioner, he’d be widely lauded as a hero. In the baseball world, however, he is still viewed by many as an enemy, especially by former executives who failed time and time again when squaring off against him at the bargaining table. By collecting 11 of 12 votes needed, Miller just missed joining Gillick, but as long as the committee contains a strong element of his past adversaries, getting over the hump could be difficult.

Steinbrenner was an industry leader during his tenure as Yankees owner.

Steinbrenner’s exclusion comes as a surprise because it seemed as if part of the reason for the Hall’s new voting process was so the recently deceased Yankee owner could be awarded with immediate posthumous enshrinement. Incredibly, however, he received less than eight votes. Even Dave Concepcion received eight! There is no legitimate argument for not electing Steinbrenner. The history of baseball without mention of Steinbrenner is simply incomplete, and that fact should override any other concern. The idea that his two suspensions should detract from his overall contribution to the game is ill conceived, especially because a careful look at each situation reveals that Steinbrenner was unfairly treated during both investigations. Putting that aside, the bottom line is George Steinbrenner was arguably the most gigantic figure during the expansion era, so having fewer than half the electors recognize his accomplishments doesn’t speak well for the process.

Getting back to Gillick, his three world championships and 2,276-1,388 record as a general manager are impressive, but are they Hall of Fame worthy? The only other men who have been elected purely as front office executives are all legendary figures in the game: Ed Barrow, who was the architect of the first Yankees’ dynasty; George Weiss, who carried the flag from Barrow by winning seven World Series in the Bronx; and Branch Rickey, who was a pioneer in so many regards, not the least of which was his role in breaking the color barrier. Two other men elected based largely on contributions as an executive were Larry and Lee McPhail. Again, both father and son left behind a legendary imprint on the game well beyond wins and losses. With all due respect to Gillick, he has not had the same impact as the front office executive he now joins in the Hall of Fame.

Most of the unworthy Hall of Fame selections in the past have emanated from the backroom politics of the veteran’s committee process. Instead of focusing on the historical integrity of enshrinement, committee members lobbied for friends and ex-teammates, resulting in more than a few curious selections. Sadly, it seems as if that process hasn’t changed. By having 16 contemporary voters preside over friend and enemy alike, the vote is almost certain to be impacted by personal bias.

Marvin Miller and George Steinbrenner were such towering figures that their legacies will grow regardless of whether they are elected to the Hall of Fame. It is a shame, however, that for at least the next three years, visitors to that institution will be witness to an incomplete history.

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The baseball world, but particularly Chicago, lost another giant figure today when Ron Santo succumbed to bladder cancer at the age of 70. After spending his entire 15-year career in the windy city (14 seasons on the North side and one on the South side), Santo added to his legend in Chicago when he joined the Cubs’ radio broadcast team in 1990. During his 20 years as an announcer, Santo’s vocal on-air support of the team became a hallmark of Cubs baseball, which unfortunately elicited more groans than wild cheers from the team’s number one fan.

As an announcer, Santo introduced his passion for Cubs baseball to a whole new generation of fans

Although Santo’s later tenure as a broadcaster overshadowed his playing career in the eyes of many younger fans, his prowess on the field was not forgotten by either those who saw him play or had the opportunity to seriously scrutinize his record. As a result, Santo is believed by many to be the best eligible player not currently inducted into the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, if the All Star and gold glove third baseman is ever able to win enshrinement, it will have to be in a posthumous manner.

After repeatedly falling short of election to Cooperstown, Santo learned to deal with the disappointment. One thing he never seemed able to fully accept, however, was the Cubs repeated failure to at least make, no less win the World Series. Sadly, Santo was unable to see either dream fulfilled.

Santo’s career disappointments paled in comparison to his health-related struggles. In addition to the cancer that eventually claimed his life, Santo also suffered 15 surgeries, including two leg amputations, stemming from his life-long battle with diabetes.

Before he was a Cub, Santo was a diabetic. At the age of 18, he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes on the very day he signed his first contract. However, afraid that it might derail his career, Santo kept his affliction a secret. Even after learning the seriousness of the disease, he pushed it to the background and went about becoming an All Star baseball player.

I headed straight to the library. What I read was frightening. Diabetes could lead to blindness, hardening of the arteries and kidney failure, among other things. One book even said, ‘The average life expectancy, from the time of diagnosis, is twenty-five years.’ Does that mean I’m supposed to die when I’m forty-three? Ron Santo, Guideposts, June 2003

Santo’s retired number #10 is lowered to half staff outside Wrigley Field (Photo: @CubsInsider).

Living in secrecy had become a burden, and Santo eventually decided to make the Cubs and his teammates aware of his condition after the All Star Break in 1963. However, he still wasn’t ready to let the outside world know about his diabetes, and swore those he told to the same silence he had lived with for years.

The public didn’t learn about Santo’s condition until August 1971, around the time the Cubs held a day in his honor. Part of the reason to go public was so Santo could use the event to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a cause he would champion throughout his life. According to Santo, however, the impetus for his revelation dated back three years earlier.

On September 25, 1968, Santo’s Cubs faced the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. Bill Singer has been pitching a 1-0 shutout against the Cubbies, but the home team had mounted a rally that brought Santo to the plate with no outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. As he awaited his at bat, Santo started to tremble. Then, he broke out into a cold sweat. Finally, he had pains in his stomach, dryness in his throat and blurriness marred his vision. Santo wasn’t suffering from the strain of a pressure-packed situation. He was suffering from hyperglycemia.

He briefly weighed taking himself out of the game. But how would that look? ‘Gutless!’ the fans would scream at him. ‘Hey, Santo, whatsa matter, ya afraid of a knockdown?’ he could hear in his mind. So he settled into the batter’s box.” – Jim Murray, Los Angeles Times (syndicated by the Washington Post News Service), June 13, 1972

Although every shred of his common sense demanded that Santo remove himself from the game, he was afraid of what the reaction from his teammates and the crowd would be. So, instead, he walked to the plate and, after taking a strike, belted the second pitch for a game winning grand slam. The fans went wild and his teammates jumped in celebration. Santo, however, quickly circled the bases. There was no time to enjoy the accomplishment. He was in a race to stave off a diabetic coma.

After revealing to the word that he was a diabetic, Santo became a tireless advocate for the cause as well as an inspiration to other player suffering from the disease. So, instead of mourning his death by lamenting the Hall of Fame’s failure to induct him or the Cubs hapless inability to win a championship, it seems much more appropriate to celebrate his life. And, what better way to do that than by making a donation to the JDRF in his name (perhaps a small prayer for the Cubbies wouldn’t hurt either)?

Santo’s exuberance for baseball was evident even during his playing days.

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Ryan Sandberg has returned to the organization where his career began.

After losing out to Mike Quade in his bid to become manager of the Chicago Cubs, Hall of Famer and team icon Ryne Sandberg has left the organization to pursue a managerial opportunity with the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. Sandberg’s transfer is an ironic kind of homecoming. In one of the worst deals in major league history, the Phillies sent Sandberg and fellow future All Star Larry Bowa to the Cubs for Ivan de Jesus during the winter of 1982.

Had he been awarded the Cubs job, Sandberg would easily have become the current manager with the best playing career (and the best since Frank Robinson retired as manager of the Expos in 2006). Instead, they opted for Quade, who never played above the double-A level. Although likely unpopular in Chicago, history suggests the Cubs probably made the right decision. Not only doesn’t being a better player usually translate to being a better manager, but the opposite seems to be true. With that in mind, below is an “All Star” team of mostly “All Star” managers. To qualify for the list, candidates had to manage at least 700 games, win at least one pennant and maintain a winning percentage above .500. Then, the playing careers of all qualified managers were considered to determine the representative for each position. Listed below are those choices.

 
RHP: Clark Griffith, 1901-1920, White Sox, Highlanders (Yankees), Reds and Senators  
  IP W K ERA+ WAR
As Player 3385 2/3 237 955 122 49
  W L W-L% WS Penn
As Manager 1491 1367 0.522 0 1

*Inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1946.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith was a player/manager for four different organizations, but notably was the White Sox’ first manager as well as the Yankees’ first manager while in New York.  Despite winning only one pennant (in his first season as player/manager with the White Sox), Griffith finished his managerial career with 1,491 victories, which is still good for 20th all-time.

Although Griffith was also a mediocre outfielder, he was most known as a player for his accomplishments on the mound. A seven-time 20-game winner, Griffith, ended his career with 237 victories.

Honorable Mention: Bob Lemon won 207 games as a pitcher and 430 games as a manager, including two pennants and a World Series championship with the Yankees.

 
LHP: Tom Lasorda, 1976-1996, Dodgers

  IP W K ERA+ WAR
As Player 58 1/3 0 37 67 -0.2
  W L W-L% WS Penn
As Manager 1599 1439 0.526 2 4

*Inducted into the Hall of Fame as a manager in 1997.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Tommy Lasorda always liked to say that he bled Dodger blue, and there was no denying he was a blue blood among managers. Lasorda’s 1,599 wins as a manager rank him 17th on the all-time list. He also owns four NL pennants and two World Series victories.

Lasorda makes it to this list solely on the basis of his managerial ability because he actually never won a game as a player. As only one of two left handed pitchers (Eddie Dyer being the other) who met the screening criteria, Lasorda’s competition was light, so this All Star team gets the benefit of including one of the games best ambassadors and entertaining storytellers.

(more…)

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The Hall of Fame’s inaugural “Expansion ERA” ballot has been released and the Yankees are well represented. Ron Guidry, Billy Martin and Tommy John are all eligible for consideration, but the headliner is George M. Steinbrenner III. When the new “veteran’s committee” process was announced back in July, I suggested that the revised rules seemed intended for the purpose of expediting Steinbrenner’s election, and that still appears to be the case.

The appearance of Steinbrenner and Martin on the ballot together is almost too good to be true considering how inexorably the two were linked from the time Steinbrenner bought the Yankees until Martin’s untimely death on Christmas in 1989. However, an even more intriguing pairing involves one of the men who will be voting on Steinbrenner’s candidacy.

Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner in happy times. The two men are reunited as the only deceased candidates on the Hall of Fame's new Expansion Era ballot.

In order to get the posthumous nod, Steinbrenner will need a vote from 75% of the16-member panel, which the Boss would be pleased to know includes long-time friend and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Steinbrenner would probably also be greatly amused by the irony of Reinsdorf sitting in judgment over his legacy because before the two became friends they were professional enemies.

Kemp caused a war of words between Steinbrenner and Reinsdorf in 1983.

The Reinsdorf/Steinbrenner feud began in the 1982 offseason when the Yankees made an aggressive play for White Sox outfielder Steve Kemp. When the ink dried on Kemp’s new five year, $5.5 million contract with the Yankees, Reinsdorf decried Steinbrenner’s fiscal irresponsibility and derisively stated that the Yankee owner was collecting bad contracts.

In addition to his public criticism, Reinsdorf also took aim at Steinbrenner by signing free agent pitcher Floyd Bannister to a five year, $4.5 million contract. The Yankees were rumored to have great interest in Bannister, so when Reinsdorf and fellow White Sox co-owner Eddie Einhorn had the last laugh with the signing, the Boss was not amused. In response to the Bannister contract, Steinbrenner fired back, telling AP, “[Reinsdorf and Einhorn] are the Abbott and Costello of baseball…a couple of pumpkins who should get their thinking straight”.

As thanks for turning that offseason’s winter meetings in Hawaii into a battle ground, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn fined Reindorf and Einhorn $2,500, but doubled the penalty for Steinbenner. Not surprisingly, the Boss bristled at being fined twice the amount as his adversaries, stating to AP, “I’m sorry to see that Kuhn is bowing out by bearing down on the owners as usual, especially me”.

Steinbrenner would eventually see justice delayed during the 1983 season when Reinsdorf was fined another $5,000 by Kuhn for once again taking a swipe at the Yankees’ owner. While attending a party for the All Star Game, which was being played at the White Sox’ Comiskey Park, Reindorf, who had a little too much to drink, entertained the attendees by explaining how to tell when George Steinbrenner was lying. “When you see his lips move,” Reindorf informed the crowd, which included Kuhn.

The Boss had his buddy beat on World Series championships (7 to 1), but Reinsdorf evened the score with the Bulls’ six NBA titles. In 1985, Reinsdorf purchased the Bulls from an ownership group that included Steinbrenner.

Kuhn wouldn’t last as commissioner for much longer. In August 1983, he eventually resigned, washing his hands of Steinbrenner and Reinsdorf, but in his absence, the two battling owners formed a strong friendship that would last for over 25 years.

Of course, just because they were friends, didn’t mean they still didn’t enjoy taking a dig at each other. The two teams were still fond of sabotaging each other in trades (the Britt Burns deal being an excellent example), and on a personal level, Reinsdorf always enjoyed flaunting his success with the Chicago Bulls, not the least of which was because one of the men from whom he bought them was Steinbrenner.

Very few men have a greater insight into Steinbrenner’s contribution to the game of baseball than Reinsdorf. As both an enemy and a friend, he has seen the best and worst of him. It remains to be seen which side will win out when Reinsdorf weighs the balance, but either way, you can bet the Boss is keeping a close eye on his buddy from up above.

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Yesterday was the anniversary of the day the Babe hit 60, but October 1 belongs to Roger Maris and 61.

Next year will mark the golden anniversary of Maris’ historic blast off the Red Sox Tracy Stallard in 1961, and the Yankees are sure to have something special planned to mark the occasion. In the meantime, however, the Hall of Fame has decided to honor 61 by adding an asterisk.

This evening, the Hall of Fame will open its fifth annual Baseball Film Festival in Cooperstown by honoring Billy Crystal’s 61*. The festivities will include a screening of the 2001 film at the Hall, followed by a reception and discussion that will be hosted by Bob Costas and produced in conjunction with HBO Sports. Past festival headliners have included Pride of the Yankees and Bull Durham.

In addition to 61*, the festival will also feature 11 other films, including Josh Gibson: The Legend Behind the Plate, a documentary that is reported to be the most in depth look at the Negro League legend. Also, for those disappointed by Ken Burns’ Tenth Inning, the festival will also feature a comprehensive look at the history on Latin baseball as well as another account of the Red Sox miracle comeback against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. Several other short films, many of them nostalgic, and historical documentaries also highlight the agenda, which is listed below.

Session 1: Saturday, October 2, 10AM

  • Josh Gibson: The Legend Behind the Plate (50 min.): A comprehensive account of Josh Gibson’s career and the culture of the Negro Leagues.
  • 3 Balls, 2 Strikes (5 min.): A short film about baseball’s role in everyday life.
  • Dear Baseball: I Love You (14 mins.): A 1950s era retrospective about a man’s memories of baseball during his youth.

Session 2: Saturday, October 2, 1PM

  • James Warwick (13 min.): An everyman nostalgia piece that revolves around baseball.
  • BEISBOL: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (118 min.): An account of the history, legends and characters of Latin baseball as well as underlying cultural, economic and political issues.

Session 3: Saturday, October 2, 7PM

  • Four Days in October (51 min.): An account of the Red Sox historic comeback in the 2004 ALCS.
  • Ballhawks (74 min.): A look at the 2004 Cubs from the perspective of a group of men who collect baseballs hit out of the Friendly Confines.

Session 4: Sunday, October 3, 10AM

  • Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story (91 min.): A film about the Jewish experience in America with baseball as the underlying theme.
  • Conrads: A Team Rich in History (10 min.): A look at a sandlot team with a long tradition in Pennslyvania.

Session 5: Sunday, October 3, 1:30PM

  • Buck O’Neil and Black Baseball in Chicago (30 min): A film by the Chicago Baseball Museum that examines the area’s minority baseball leagues through stories told by Buck O’Neil.
  • The Last Season: The Eugene Emeralds and Civic Park (30 min): An account of the final season of Civic Stadium, which was home to Padres single-A affiliate Eugene Emeralds, from 1969 before moving to University of Oregon’s PK Park in  2010.

Source: Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce

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